I've been thinking about this soup ever since the farm-to-fork dinner last month at Whispering Winds Farm. Devra Gartenstein of the Patty Pan Grill made these carrots based on a recipe in my book. When I ate them, I'd mused about how good the flavors of carrots and maple would be in a soup and today I brought that day dream to reality.
Also, if you're looking for a bargain at the market, carrots are bigger now, so a three dollar bunch goes a lot farther and is a great deal when you think about all those nutrients they offer.
And speaking of fennel, who can go a season without it? Fresh fennel gives off a faint licorice scent in the field and bees love it. The sweet aroma reminds me of a day I spent wandering the fields at Gathering Together Farm in Oregon and listening to all the bees buzzing as I inhaled the aroma.
I used fresh and dry fennel seeds in this recipe. I added a sweet onion and a potato to make the soup thick and creamy.
The fennel seed is toasted first. To toast the seeds, turn the oven to 325F.; spread them in a baking dish and toast for 10 minutes, or use a skillet and dry roast until you get a good scent of licorice. Toasted chopped pecans make a perfect garnish.
I considered adding lemon juice, but then remembered the wild currants I'd purchased from Mair Farm-Taki. A few other farmers sell red currants, and if you don't have currants, use 1 tablespoon or more fresh lemon juice.
Here's the recipe:
Creamy Carrot Soup with Fennel and Pecans
(Serves 4 to 6)
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 bulb fennel, base chopped and fronds saved for garnish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch medium-size carrots, sliced (about 3 cups)
1 white potato, washed and chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon roasted, ground fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (optional)
1 to 2 cups coconut milk (in a carton not a can)
1/4 cup orange or red currants or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup (use the real thing, please)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions, fennel and olive oil. Reduce heat, stir and cook until fennel and onions are soft, but not browned.
2. Place carrots, potato, garlic, water, ground fennel seeds, and Mama Lil's peppers, if desired, in a soup pot. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until carrots and potato are soft.
3. Scoop one cup at a time into a blender and puree, adding the coconut milk and currants or lemon juice, and blending until you reach the desired consistency. Return to pot and heat gently. Add the sauteed onions, ground fennel, maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Garnish with toasted pecans and fennel fronds.
Wow, the flavors of this soup are simply amazing. It's the perfect remedy for the dog days of summer.